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Twitter discloses 10k accounts suspended for fomenting political discord (techcrunch.com)
40 points by melenaboija 25 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 89 comments

I'm amazed at how certain people seem on either side of this debate. This seems to me like an incredibly difficult problem, and I can't see a solution that doesn't involve significant trade offs.

On one hand, silencing people for "inciting unrest" does sound like something a dystopian judge would say before passing sentence. On the other, there is a philosophical argument—and economic incentive—for Twitter to protect its users from harassment and targeted manipulation, especially when it is state-sponsored.

Where the line gets drawn for these definitions seems to be the hardest part.

A single individual or organized group possessing thousands of accounts used to astroturf a platform is abusive of the platform, regardless of what the message is - banning that sort of activity doesn't seem dystopian.

That sounds different and a lot more specific than simply "inciting unrest". Facebook calls it "coordinated inauthentic behavior" which while still very broad at least seems to be more specifically directed at the behavior you describe.

I don't disagree at all — but in your hypothetical situation, they're clearly not being banned for causing "unrest." They're being banned for creating fake accounts to spam the platform en masse, "regardless of what the message is" as you say.


> Saudi Arabia’s state-run media apparatus were found to be “engaged in coordinated efforts to amplify messaging that was beneficial to the Saudi government.”

If they are bots which get paid or are under control of a government, sure, suspend.

If these are individuals voicing opinions and not inciting violence, I think they are wrong. People should be able to have disagreeable opinions, even illegal opinions (“pot should be legal”), “the minister in an asshole”. People should not be guilty of wrongthink.

> People should be able to have disagreeable opinions, even illegal opinions

I think I missed the part where twitter has control over what opinions people are able to have. How ever did we every have any opinions before 2006?

In order to combat vile trolling and direct incitement to violence, Twitter has taken it upon themselves to moderate other behaviors as well.

There are historic tweets from senior people at Twitter which today would get banned.

As an example, if I were to the r-word, I could get the hammer, depending if it’s noticed or not. I do not use the r-word. I think it’s in poor taste and reflects badly on one’s upbringing to use it, but yet I think in addition to being vernacular, we should not ban people for using “bad” words, of for this word to consider it hateful (at least in most contexts).

Twitter does not constrain your ability to hold/believe your opinion, merely to express it on their platform (which they own and grant you access under the condition you conform to the rules they apply to everybody).

But at what point do those platforms have a monopoly on distribution? I run my own Mastodon server and really enjoy the platform a lot more than Twitter, but the vast majority of people just use the big things that are out there.

Facebook and Twitter may own their own platforms, but the collective value given to them by society and their ability to distribute ideas and change opinions globally should be deeply troubling and of great concern.

It can even be said large platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google and even stores like Amazon are kinda their own States in some ways. They have governance. They have voters (shareholders). They have policy and negotiate policy with other governments via lobbies, and they can control what people see and persuade how people think.

> their own States in some ways

Hardly; states have rule of force.

This will, in my opinion, be one of the great debates of our time. Does a private company have the right to choose which opinions can be expressed on its platform? It's really hard to choose.

So if a foreign concern were to buy Twitter and they changed their ToS and banned talk of dissident oppression in Russia and banned talk of persecutions in China and banned talk about climate change, people would just chuck it up to, “it's their platform” love it leave it?

Yes that's how I would react. So what. It's only Twitter. There are plenty of alternatives.


It's clear from the article that these are the former.

A sentence from the beginning of the article:

> Today’s removals mark nearly one year of Twitter’s efforts to identify and remove accounts that are spreading political misinformation for the purposes of changing public sentiment — something that has wide-ranging impact beyond simply being annoyed on social media, including not least democratic processes like voting in elections or referendums.

The list of countries later is also hard to miss.

I don't see anything in the snippet you reference that makes it clear that these are bots being banned.


> Saudi Arabia’s state-run media apparatus were found to be “engaged in coordinated efforts to amplify messaging that was beneficial to the Saudi government.”

The person you're responding to didn't say anything about bots. These are state-funded efforts to manipulate the platform.

What is the methodology for determining that an account is part of a state-funded manipulation campaign? Also, is 'state-funded' necessarily worse than 'privately-funded'? How does twitter know who funds an account? Twitter has a history of banning people simply because their opinions are unpopular, so these claims don't hold much weight.

I wonder at what point we're allowed to accuse people of having not read the article.

Twitter discussion threads are so often extremely polarized and uncivil. They have to do something otherwise the majority of users who aren't interested in reading threads of propaganda accounts fighting with each other will lose interest in the site.

It's not about suppressing controversial opinions, it's about keeping what is fundamentally a site most people use for entertainment, entertaining, instead of a battleground for those with the most extreme opinions on the internet.

Twitter have been incredibly permissive with they allow compared to Facebook and Reddit up until now.

I use it for following topics I’m interested in. I’ve not seen haywire imbroglios. I don’t have to follow threads that I disagree with. I don’t have to follow people/accounts who annoy me. I don’t have to go hunt down and report people whose opinions I disagree with.

Twitter blocked my account for a nearly 10 year old post. I'll admit, I'm not prod of the post. It was immature and something I wouldn't write today. But looking at our past is how we grow, and erasing it doesn't seem right:


I don't see how anyone is going to grow from being exposed to your misogynistic tweets. Getting banned is better than nothing, even if 10 years too late.

Yeah that tweet is uncivil due to foul language. I wouldn’t use that same language, but if Twitter doesn’t have a ban on those words, I don’t see why they’d ban the tweet or account which is expressing an opinion and isn’t a call to act on violence.

It’s really trying to mould behavior otherwise allowed in public. We accept this opinion but not that opinion or language.

What would you say about an individual whose behavior has been manipulated by bots that are paid by or under the control of a government?

That’s not a bot. A Bernie supporter who goes all in or a Trump supporter who goes all in, or someone who genuinely believes CCP propaganda they are not bots even if their tweets read like they are bot-ish.

Of course they are not a bot.

What you are saying is basically like saying: "We've sued the companies for polluting the river, but we have no intention of cleaning the pollutants."

The current divisive political comment in the US has caused me to rethink my previous position on free speech, (Re-think as in think over, not just decide I was wrong) and I have ed found a lot less certainty.

On the one hand, speech is a fundamental of any kind of improvement. Without speech that challenges the status quo, the status quo is all you get. Sure, you avoid lies and discomfort, but you are stuck with the discomfort you have. (and, importantly, the discomfort others suffer out of proportion with yourself). Heck, how can one even speak out against free speech without relying on it? It seems like the ultimate winning argument.

On the other hand, the idea that we are all active, rational beings that are well positioned to understand when we are being deceived is actively false. Not only is this NOT true for most everyone, it is also basically impossible - there is far too much to learn if we try to verify even "simple" assertions. We must end up trusting other parties to do some evaluation (and we can only do cursory evaluations of trustworthiness for the exact same reasons). Any effort to be well informed and rational must be built on a foundation of trusting the well informed and rational behavior of others, and that's before even considering whether any behavior is HONEST.

The concept of the First Amendment in the US constitution is about barring govt interference in speech. I dont believe that is the same as supporting uninhibited speech - the system breaks down if all speech is treated equally. We rely on social pressures to silence (Or reduce the volume of) bad voices. "Fine", the observer says "being considered an asshole unworthy of listening to is a perfectly fine result. Free speech doesnt mean freedom from consequences".

Yet we have propped up the idea that speech should NOT be silenced. The above comment is talking about the actions of a private company, not the govt. It is saying "people should support the voices of others at at least a minimum level (refusing to silence), and if they do not do so our voices should speak up against THEM".

Where is our ability, be that as individuals that might be part of companies, or as members theoretically responsible for the govt and definitely living in the society that the govt supports, to silence poisonous voices? How can we recognize that speech, even uncomfortable speech, is a vital need for progress, without giving power to those elements that will happily and dishonestly abuse the system we create in ways that harm that system (and a lot of people?) Must we continue to empower the sociopaths and those utterly without empathy because we fear anything less is harmful?

I don't know the answer, but I'm a lot less confident that pegging the gauge at "all speech without limit" is truly the best answer. A test I like to give to any theoretical solution is "would this have been used against what I consider GOOD dislikes speech?" (abolitionism, womens suffrage, civil rights, marriage equality, etc). A lot fails this test...yet I find that historically those efforts faced a lot of problems. Hell, we dont have gender or racial equality today despite all the time we've talked about it, and a lot of people have suffered, at varying levels of misfortune, trauma, mutilation, and death. To point at this "progress" and say "yes, this is the best way to achieve improvement" seems short-sighted. We should be wary of inducing an oppressive society, but not every slope HAS to be a slippery slope.

I think you've discovered that the premise of the marketplace of ideas suffers from the same flaw as the premise of a pure free market - the assumption that markets will always optimize for quality (or objective truth) due to humans being rational actors. But of course, that's not the case. Markets aren't rational, bad actors and perverse incentives exist and because of this, regulations exist ostensibly to force markets to be more fair than mere supply and demand would permit.

The fact that we currently live in an age in which access to well formed, well researched arguments to the contrary of any viewpoint are abundant and freely available, yet extremism is on the rise, demonstrates that letting bad ideas spread and simply expecting rational counter-arguments to kill them does not work. The extremists are well aware of views to the contrary, and couldn't care less. Checkmate atheists, as it were.

I'm personally starting to be sold on the Paradox of Tolerance[0], and the premise that for free speech to be protected, some speech must be limited:

     In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always 
    suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter 
    them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, 
    suppression would certainly be unwise. 

    But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; 
    for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level 
    of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their 
    followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them 
    to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, 
    in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.

In other words, the marketplace of ideas doesn't work unless there are consequences for selling snake-oil and poison.

I’ve been wondering for a while whether I should delete my Twitter account and this piece of news suggests to me that perhaps I should.

The sentence “Fomenting political discord” sounds a lot like 1984.

Not the first time I've heard someone argue that state-sponsored agitprop is free speech, while suppressing it on a private platform is somehow dystopian.

Ignorance is strength?

I think part of the problem is that Twitter is rooted in American assumptions about propaganda that don't apply globally.

America isn't propaganda-free, of course, but there's enough competing/conflicting propaganda that things kind-of balance out. (Or at least historically they did; increased silo-ing is reducing exposure to conflicting opinions even here).

Opening the platform to countries like Saudi Arabia and China brings fully-functional propaganda operations into the global mix, for which there is no existing competition. Nobody really knows what to do about it.

Do these 'state-sponsored' accounts have a footer '- sponsored by X' in their posts? How are you determining what is state-sponsored?

> state-sponsored agitprop

as defined by the board of Twitter, Inc.? I stand by my "ignorance" then.

State-sponsored agitprop bad, private, corporate-sponsored agitprop good.

Am I understanding the implications of your post correctly?


I think is pretty directly relevant to your "question"?

So unless we deal with the problem of Coca Cola being on twitter we can't deal with state sponsored bots?

Your question seems insincere and merely aimed at morally confusing the issue to no useful purpose.

How on Earth is pointing out the hypocrisy of censoring paid propaganda by a state actor, but not by a corporate actor whataboutism? This is an incredibly relevant issue.

And we're not even trying to 'deal with the problem of Coca Cola being on Twitter'. The whole raison d'etre for Twitter's existence is dissemination of paid propaganda by corporate actors. It's what keeps the lights on at Twitter! Ads, promoted tweets, and other forms of paid speech.

If the difference between a State and a Corporation is that muddled in your mind it's your issue not the rest of ours.

It's a critical part of being a discerning person to be able to BOTH say how things are similar and how they differ.

You seem to have no test for discerning how Coca Cola and the Russian government differ.

For someone who doesn't live in Russia, the difference is academic, and they are far more similar, than they are different.

Actually, now that I think about it - one key difference is that shitty sugary drinks have killed more Americans then the Russian government did.

Another is that corporations buying candidates, by virtue of sponsoring their political campaigns have done more to undermine, subvert, and corrupt democracy than the Kremlin could ever dream of. You say the Russians have improperly 'influenced' elections? China astroturfs their global image? Please contrast that to to both the effort expended by, and the rewards gained by the fossil fuel industry, in 'influencing' elections, and astroturfing its global image.

Everyone's getting their knickers in a twist because some Trump staffer had some meetings with the Russian government - yet half the politicans in Washington are regurgitating talking points straight from a corporate press release.

But I suppose propaganda from the former is kosher, because they have a clear profit motive for it, eh?

> Actually, now that I think about it - one key difference is that shitty sugary drinks have killed more Americans then the Russian government did.

The difference is agency. The people that chose to drink those drinks were able to make that decision, not helpless to some corporation.

You don't get to choose not to be assassinated by a Russian agent.

That's a load of crock. By that same argument, since you have the agency to think for yourself and vote however you want, foreign propaganda should have zero impact on our elections.

I also don't have any choice in whether or not I personally get to deal with the negative social impacts of overconsumption of sugary drinks, overextraction of fossil fuels, or politicians bought by the healthcare cartels. I have to live with all of it.

Partially, yeah. I do think that. Responsibility stops with the voter. The way we combat misinformation is with more information (like fact checks and advertiser transparency) and never censorship.

Prove that it's state sponsored. The point is, we can't. Not without Twitter sharing their data and methodologies. I've heard too many horror stories about being axed from the internet by a faceless corporation to accept their judgement blindly.

In the article, the accounts were "actively spreading misinformation and encouraging unrest in politically sensitive climates."

Sounds fine to me. Overreaction much?

Sounds fine to me too. When NSDAP executed "Night of the Long Knives" they also provided a reason that sounded fine. In fact it wasn't even called Night of the Long Knives, it was called "Hummingbird" ... Nobody is going to provide a reason that doesn't "sound fine" ... or did you verify those accounts?

Besides "encouraging unrest in politically sensitive climates" is BS statement in itself. They kicked out 200k Chinese accounts, 5k from UAE, 4k from Russia ... so these are "politically sensitive climates" according tho whose political narrative and objectives? I'm sure Chinese definition of "sensitive climates" fits different countries.

Bottom line is, Twitter is a private business and now they play geopolitics (or aid their player of choice, choose whichever you like)

Without any context, if you said "a spokesman justified the censorship by claiming those involved were 'actively spreading misinformation and encouraging unrest in politically sensitive climates'" and asked me to guess who the spokesman was representing, I would say the Chinese government not Twitter. You might object that that statement is true when made by Twitter but would be a lie coming from China, but I don't think that's right. The protestors in Hong Kong are certainly "encouraging unrest" and probably some of them have made untrue claims at some point.

This kind of surface-level similarity doesn't necessarily mean much, but I still think it's a bit disturbing. Twitter have a lot of power to censor, and I'm not sure why anyone would trust them to reliably use it wisely.

"misinformation" - as defined by whom?

"encouraging unrest in politically sensitive climates" - La Résistance in Vichy France would fall under this. In some countries asking for fair and democratic elections would fall under this.

Inconvenient truths often get mislabeled as misinformation.

What truths are being labeled as misinformation here?

If I knew and told you that for this very site I'd get banned. If the truths weren't inconvenient, no one would bother mislabeling them.

Do you trust their judgment on this? Will you always? Like other similar happenings, the side you agree with may not always be the side making the choices. No one can objectively make that call in 100% of circumstances, and the risk of deplatforming a valid counter voice should not be dismissed.

> Do you trust their judgment on this?

More or less.

> Will you always?

Hard to say. I can at least see the possibility that the answer is no.

> Like other similar happenings, the side you agree with may not always be the side making the choices.

The side that's in favor of keeping foreign agitprop off of the site is a side that I'm likely to continue to agree with. It's not like the actors being blocked are good-faith "valid counter voices". They are illegitimate because of their methodology, not because of their viewpoint. (An organized campaign of people lying about who they're working for, trying to advocate positions that they don't actually believe, in order to mess with the minds of voters of another country... yeah, let's block that, no matter which viewpoint they've chosen to "advocate".)

Could Twitter move on to viewpoint blocking? Yes, they could. Would I have a problem with it if they did? Absolutely.

Disclaimer: I don't actually use Twitter, and I may not know what I'm talking about.

Isn't that exactly how China justifies all its online crackdowns?

> "actively spreading misinformation and encouraging unrest"

Isn't this the way many dictators describe democracy movements? How do we know if it's one or the other? Twitter is not a government, you can't submit a freedom of information request, we don't know what methodology they've used.

If you really cared about preserving your right to freedom of speech, you'd have your own website. You check your rights at the door the second you log in to a platform you don't own or control.

Twitter isn't a government agency, but a private corporation protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. They have the right to reject any content you contribute without being liable for any user-generated content they publish.

That means they don't owe you a platform. Likewise, you owe them nothing, so why tolerate Twitter's continued existence? Just open up /etc/hosts and set twitter.com's IP to "". Problem solved.

That's still requiring someone to host you (assuming your not self serving), your ISP to connect to you, and your DNS to continue directing people to you. You're always reliant on someone else's platform to keep you afloat on the internet.

I know, and I think some of that could be eliminated if ISPs were required by law to allow people to self-host Web and gopher sites (and properly secured SMTP) on residential connections and do a full IPV6 rollout so that you can have your server directly accessible without NAT if you want. Then you can just give out your IPV6 address if domain registrars refuse to serve you because they find your site's contents objectionable.

So instead of forcing Twitter we forces the ISPs? I'm not sure if that's an improvement.

We should be smacking around ISPs anyway, just to remind them that as limited-liability corporations with government-issued charters they exist in their current form on public sufferance and must remember their place while they still have one. We the people are sovereign and have the right to demand that the officials we elect to govern on our behalf regulate corporations to serve the public good instead of pursuing shareholder value uber alles.

This being the case, I don't see any reason why ISPs be permitted to say that individuals should not be allowed to run internet-accessible websites or gopher holes out of their homes. I think enacting reasonable legislation to force ISPs to allow residential customers to use their service to publish content as well as consume it will create a richer and more robust internet.

Now, if you still find the notion of forcing corporations to do things objectionable, it might help to remember that corporations are not human beings. They have no inherent rights, only powers defined by law. They are like governments in that regard.

You have the right to run a business and work for a profit. You do not have the right to do so from behind the aegis of a LLC. That is a privilege.

A company is located in a physical place and has to follow the laws in that place.

I am 100% sure that if youtube started to reject all content from Muslims then they would get hit by a discrimination law suit and end up in court over it. The argument would be that google, youtube server, or the user is located in a physical place with anti-discrimination laws, and based on that users has rights.

As I mentioned earlier, my understanding is that as a corporation based in the US, Twitter is governed in part by Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act of 1996[1], which consists of the following:

"No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

How a conflict between Section 230 and hypothetical anti-discrimination laws barring a social networking from imposing a blanket ban on right-wing content should be adjudicated is way above my pay grade since I'm not a judge, let alone a lawyer.

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_230_of_the_Communicati...

To give an example of how the law sometimes work, Sweden has a similar law to section 230 called "The law regarding electronic billboards", which gives the provider legal space to operate as a intermediate without legal liability in regard to the message. During the Pirate Bay trial the founders argue that this gave them protection.

The prosecutor and later the court judgment cited a different law, one which was created in order to give the police the power to seize biker bars from organized crime. They argued that the website, just like a biker bar, allowed for "primarily" illegal activity and thus made the founder liable for operating it and gives the police the power to seize it in order to stop further crime.

Even if twitter, google or any other private operated website is not treated as the publisher or speaker, the operators can still be charged under any law that do not distinguish on the accused being the publisher or speaker.

Sounds a bit Orwellian to me, trying to control/disallow what others may or may not think or voice

But if you would think of the activity instead as a DDoS attack on your mental attention span would you come to a different conclusion?

I was downvoted before for suggesting that DDoS protection would constitute a limit on free speech, so clearly this community feels that DDoS protection is a "good" thing.

I think we can all agree that human attention span is a limited resource, much like network bandwidth.

If we make a simple analogy between network bandwidth and human attention span, then how is an automated bot (or army of humans) sending out mass propaganda to overload your attention any different than an automated bot transmitting junk data to overload your network bandwidth? Why would you control one but not the other?

Perhaps a special tag such as "suspected troll" would suffice.

State-sponsored misinformation should be protected by freedom of speech.

Twitter is a private entity which has no obligation to host said speech.

The first amendment doesn't apply to twitter, but we can still hold them accountable for their content policies.

Insofar as "hold them accountable" means organizing a boycott or something, sure (although I don't know why you'd be against them not allowing state-sponsored misinformation).

Parent said "protected by freedom of speech", though, which in this context sounds like they're suggesting that Twitter should be compelled by law to host it.

Governments have chosen to use Twitter as a medium for communication. It’s an open form platform to post by anyone but government officials do communicate via Twitter in an official capacity. Some agencies post things to Twitter (and Facebook) but nowhere else — not even on their own government websites.

I’ve had government officials ignore emails but respond to tweets (as someone who no longer uses Twitter, this is now quite frustrating).

At some point Twitter can no longer hide behind the “private entity” flag. A line gets crossed and even if there’s not technically a legal standing for freedom of speech on a platform like Twitter, there’s a ideological debate to be had whether it now should be. Certainly a decade ago much of the idealism sold to us around social media was that it was an equalizing force for free speech and communication.

> A line gets crossed and even if there’s not technically a legal standing for freedom of speech on a platform like Twitter, there’s a ideological debate to be had whether it now should be.

That’s fair, and I’m up for that ideological debate (although my position would still be that Twitter shouldn’t feel obligated to disseminate speech it doesn’t want to). But the parent was arguing that the legal standing should be created.

> Certainly a decade ago much of the idealism sold to us around social media was that it was an equalizing force for free speech and communication.

There are actors with the resources of nation-states wielding hundreds of thousands of fake accounts to run massive propaganda campaigns… and your position is that allowing that is the way to make social media an equalizing force?

The distinction between corporate and government censorship is a legalistic workaround.

It would be reasonable to ban companies who act as "platforms" from any sort of editorial discretion. NYT should be able to decide what to publish, but not Twitter.

Why? False advertising isn't.

So they finally banned Trump's account?

Trump's account is a beautiful example of how useless Twitter is.

Typically it goes...


Followed by 1k responses of YAY TRUMP! and 50k responses of people vomiting up any old thing that's just as insulting as they can cook up. Why on Earth do people waste their time on this sort of thing? It has evolved from keyboard warriorhood to some sort of internet Tourette's.

/end old man rant.

>Why on Earth do people waste their time on this sort of thing? It has evolved from keyboard warriorhood to some sort of internet Tourette's.

Because the President of the United States has decided that shitposting on Twitter shall be his primary means of communicating with the people, and the courts have decided this means he's not allowed to block anyone from his feed, because the people have a right to hear their governments' words and to petition it with grievances.

What's happening on Twitter is the platform being used as intended by everyone but Trump - it's not supposed to be used for deep, nuanced, complex discussion. It's for posting links and blogging about your food - nonsense that can fit into a couple of sentences. But thanks to him elevating it to a higher status than it deserves, it's now become the nexus for American political communication and debate with this administration.

about damn time! this "internet" thing--letting ordinary dummies all over the world (even the ones in shithole countries) talk to each other--is, was, and always will be bad news.

only way to protect these fools from "fake news" is to filter everything through the pure and blameless mouths of demographically-targeted, perfect-haired multimillionaires reading teleprompters. it is the only way!

in light of this glorious victory--thank you Lord Jesus!--we are only a few years away from setting things right.

Nice sarcasm. Too bad hardly anybody seems to get it.

People could be understanding the sarcasm, but instead down-voting as that's not what this site is meant for.

If they really think it's inappropriate, shouldn't they be flagging it for the mods to handle?

give it a just little more time...

literature and history be damned, we should all stand in obedient awe of some lisp nerd's rules for meaningful conversation

This is what we get for pushing a "STEM uber alles" educational agenda and deriding the liberal arts as an expensive path to a lifetime spent asking people if they'd like fries with that.

We get techies who read satire literally and get upset when told that the sonic boom they just heard was the point getting ready to skip past light speed and ridiculous speed in favor of going to plaid.

I wasn't aware heavy-handed sarcasm appreciation was the domain of the liberal arts grad. Being one myself my education allows me to craft my thoughts in a manner whereby I can both express myself effectively and maintain decorum.

Being a college dropout, I got just enough education to recognize satire when I see it and effectively express myself most of the time, but not quite enough to hide my working-class roots or be ashamed of them.

If I fail to maintain decorum, use the downvote button. That's apparently why HN has one.

You know, on that lisp nerd's site, yes, you kind of do have to follow their rules.

I would if I could.

They are rather subjective, and arbitrarily enforced. I'm a nerd, not a mind-reader!

Strictly speaking, you don't have to follow any rules.

You can be punished for breaking the rules after the fact, but that isn't the same as being obligated to obey them.

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